Russian news agency TASS has reported that a chunk of a US Pegasus carrier rocket is due to whizz past the International Space Station (ISS) at a minimum distance of 5.4km this week.
In a report that entirely failed to mention the debris cloud created by a Russian Anti-Satellite Test a few weeks ago, space agency Roscosmos was quoted as saying: “No decision has been made on the need to carry out an avoidance manoeuvre.
“Specialists of the Flight Control Center and the Main Information and Analysis Center continue keeping the situation under control.”
So that’s OK then.
Russian media also noted the last time that debris approached the station was on 25 November, “when a US Falcon 9 rocket fragment flew at a distance of more than 5km from the orbital outpost.”
As a reminder, the ISS crew was forced to take shelter in November after Russia destroyed one of its old space satellites, spewing debris over Earth orbit. The insanity of the move was, frankly, breath-taking. And the safe haven used by the ISS crew? As former Space Shuttle program manager Wayne Hale put it: “As Capt Young used to term some of our Shuttle abort procedures ‘It’s something to do while you’re waiting to die.’ Safe Haven is the best that can be done, it might even be of some use. But don’t kid yourself.”
The latest emission from TASS follows some bizarre accusations made late last week when another Russian publication was quoted (citing anonymous sources) as alleging the mystery hole in the habitation compartment of Soyuz MS-09 had been drilled by a NASA astronaut for personal reasons.
The cause of the hole has never been made public, and in 2018 Roscosmos boss Dmitry Rogozin insisted the agency had never accused NASA of the damage, taking to the TASS mouthpiece to say: “I categorically deny these allegations as totally untrue.”
NASA has yet to comment on the latest accusations in Russia media, nor on the source of the debris that caused yesterday’s abrupt spacewalk scrub. A few more ill-conceived ASAT incidents, and the mystery of who punched a hole in the Soyuz will be the least of the ISS’s problems. ®